Guest post by Leo Igwe.
People across the world are slowly being coerced into treating Islam with ‘respect’ or, better, with fear. We are gradually getting to a point where criticising the Islamic faith is a form of death sentence.
The reason which some people give for this ugly development is that ‘Many people believe in Islam.’ They say: ‘There are over I billion muslims in the world’. And my question is: And so what? That billions of people, including children, youths, illiterates and semi illiterates, profess Islam or believe that something is true does not make it true, does it? Billions of people have held mistaken, absurd and irrational claims over the centuries and still do. Majority can carry the vote but not ‘the truth’
Personally I do not understand what ‘respecting’ religion or Islam in this case means.
If one does not profess a religion, how is one expected to respect it? If one has a different idea of a religion, what does respecting that faith mean? When people say one should respect a religion, do they mean one should embrace it? Or one should not question it? I guess they mean that nobody is expected to poke fun at that religion…or let us be specific, nobody is expected to cartoon or make caricature of Pr. Muhammad. Does that include those who do not profess Islam? Those who think Muhammad is not a prophet? Those who are of the view that Islam is founded on 7th century Arabian cultural mythologies?
The reason they give is that cartooning Muhammad is offensive to Muslims. What is interesting is that this time nobody bothers to find out which group of Muslims – the extremists or moderates – is being offended. Any one who tries doing today something that can be interpreted to be offensive to ‘Muslims’ may be killed. And to some people, this is justifiable. I mean, in which way is it justifiable to kill a human being for drawing Muhammad, for burning the Quran or for doing any thing that can be interpreted (most times by fanatics) as insulting Islam? How is drawing Muhammad an insult, a form of disrespect? If a person does not want to draw Muhammad out of faith, another person wants to do so out of curiosity or as an expression of art. What is wrong with that? Why should anybody be killed because of that?
For me this is arrant nonsense. This is lunacy masquerading as piety. This is barbarism being mistaken as civilisation. Why? Every religion is a caricature of other religions. Just try doing a reality check of religious teachings and you would find out that religious business thrives on absurdity, fantasy and contradiction. For instance, to believe that Jesus is the saviour of the world makes a caricature of the belief that Muhammad is the greatest prophet and vice versa. Believing that the Koran was revealed by God (Allah) ridicules the idea that the Bible is the word of God, and so on.
Actually all religions are in the business of making caricatures of themselves. So what is special about Islam in this case? What is special about Pr. Muhammad? What is special about the Quran? Islam is not the only religion in the world. Islam is not the first religion and will not be the last. Pr. Muhammad was not the first or the last prophet, though some Muslims would disagree. The Quran is not the only ‘holy’ book out there that thrives on treachery. The Quran is not the only ‘sacred text’ which humans finished writing at a time and later claimed it was revealed by Allah, just to make us believe what is written in it…even when some of the things contained in the text are not what a thinking and intelligent human being in this 21st century should believe.
More importantly, Christianity and Islam owe their growth and spread in Africa to poking fun at African traditional religious beliefs and practices. African traditionalists have not rioted or resorted to killing and burning embassies in protest because christian and islamic missionaries insulted their religion or made a caricature of their gods. I mean, making caricature of traditional religious ‘prophets’ and beliefs is the pastime of christian and islamic preachers and missionaries in the region. Just go to any of the churches and mosques in Nigeria or Malawi, Mali, Ghana or Senegal and listen to their pastors and Imams talk about traditional religious beliefs. Just try and listen to the sermons and preachings of people who are replacing a set of superstitions with another ridicule the ‘idols’ and ‘fetish gods’ which they say Africans worship. Many churches and mosques in Africa are built on traditional sacred sites, on the ashes of burnt sacred objects. Is that not desecration? Why has nobody categorised this as offensive? What muslim scholars, missionaries and their sympathizers in Africa and around the globe are telling Traditional Africans is this: ”We can make caricature of your religion, poke fun at your gods and prophets, burn and destroy your sacred sites and symbols, but if you dare poke fun at Islam, cartoon Pr. Mohammad, criticise or desecrate the Quran, we will kill you.
Personally I don’t get this. Yes I don’t. Do you?